Book Review: The Justice Riders
Mostly, I talk about comics here on the ISB, but that's more of a product of my obsessive nature than an actual rule for the website. After all, every now and then, something comes along in some other medium that is so ludicrously awesome that I have to talk about it.
Chuck Norris's new novel, The Justice Riders is one of them.
Admittedly, the internet reached critical mass for Chuck Norris jokes about three months ago, but trust me: This thing is mind-blowing. It is, however unintentional, the most hilariously over-the-top book I have ever read, thus making it the prose equivalent of Skateman. So bear with me through the groans, won't you?
Anyway, if you've ever been watching The Octagon and wished there was a little more reading involved, this is the book for you. And no, your eyes do not decieve you: It took Chuck Norris and three other people to write this book, presumably because seeing more than a third of Chuck's original manuscript would leave any other man blind and possibly deaf.
It is, of course, not to be confused with the Chuck Dixon/J.H. Williams III 1997 Elseworlds one-shot of the same name. It is, in fact, not a comic book at all, which means my usual technique of scanning panels and writing jokes to go along with them isn't going to work this time.
I'm going to have to go back to the crayons.
Chuck Norris is Ezra Justice! Or at least, that's how it happened in my head while I was reading. Justice--or as I like to call him, Champ Goodguy--is your typical Chuck Norris honorable badass character, this time set against the backdrop of the Civil War, where he's tapped by General Sherman to lead an elite strike team of his own special forces operatives on covert missions.
Let's run through that one more time: An elite strike team of special forces operatives. During the Civil War.
Still with me? Good.
Said strike team is made up of the following
Nathaniel "Big Nate" Yorke, a devout Christian and former slave who was once owned by Justice's family. But since Ezra's such a swell guy, they're actually best friends, and there's even a part where upon seeing Ezra show up, Nate runs out to give his "best friend and former owner" a big hug.
Wow. I'm pretty sure David Sedaris put it best when he said, "I think history has proven that something usually comes between slavery and friendship, a period of time marked not by cookies and quiet times beside the fire but by bloodshed and mutual hostility."
Next up, Carlos and Roberto Hawkins, Gypsy twin brothers making their way through the world as conmen and pickpockets who also happen to be explosive experts. They are, in fact, so skilled that in addition to inventing the Satchel Charge in 1863, they are able to sneak into enemy camps and rig it with landmines and sundry explosives that result in no casualties, just a demoralizing annoyance.
Harry Whitecloud, half-Sioux tracking expert who, despite being educated as a doctor at Princeton, "occasionally made a mess of his adopted language" (page 19!). He's ridiculously stereotyped, and the book's just long enough that by the time the climax rolls around, you've forgotten that he uses a bow and arrow instead of a rifle.
And if you don't think his arrows get sticks of the twins' dynamite tied to them at some point, you clearly have not been paying attention.
Handling sniping duties and bass guitar is Reginald Bonesteel, British sharpshooter, expatriate (having been kicked out of the Queen's personal bodyguard for his curious indiscretions), and six-time winner of the North American Manliest Name Competition (1859-1866).
And finally, rounding out the cast is Shaun O'Banyon, recovering alcoholic Irishman who, despite being a tough as nails boxer, has a sensitive heart of gold and talks about going home to his wife all the time. So it really comes as no surprise whatsoever when he's stabbed through the heart by Ezra's nemesis, Mordecai Slate.
Yes, Mordecai Slate. Because apparently, "Evil McStone" is slated to appear in the sequel.
Regardless, Voldemordecai over here is the leader of a ruthless band of Confederate renegades known as The Death Raiders, and as you might expect, this leads him into quite a conflict with Our Hero. Especially when he tries to shoot Justice in the opening chapter, completely unaware that by law, all Men of Action must keep a pocketwatch, bible, cigarette case, flask, or other small object capable of deflecting bullets in their breast pocket at all times.
He ends up having a showdown with Justice at the end, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'll let you figure out who wins that one yourself.
The book essentially reads exactly like you'd expect from something with the name "Chuck Norris" on the cover, up to and including the multiple explosions that kick off the first chapter, only with a weirdly pervasive proselytizing at every opportunity. It's an odd, rambling story wherein the heroes wisecrack their way through actual pieces of history--like the laugh riot that was Andersonville--often to the tune of excruciating detail. There is, for example, a detailed history of Clinton, Missouri crammed in there, and a lengthy chapter on riverboat boilers that I really could've done without.
All you need to know? Chuck Norris--sorry, Ezra Justice roundhouse kicks a Confederate soldier to death on page twelve.
At one point, the Justice Riders find themselves aboard the Sultana, a historical riverboat, when the boilers go kaboom. In any other book a massive explosion and the ensuing tragedy would be the highlight of the night, but in The Justice Riders, that's just how we get things started. Because once he's off the boat, Lone Wolf McQuade--sorry, Ezra Justice comes face-to-face with the ship's mascot, Chops.
This is a book where Chuck Norris punches out an alligator in the middle of the Mississippi River.
Beat that, Ken Burns.